In 2019, McKinney voters passed a $50 million bond proposition to fund a new municipal community complex located in a lot at the intersection of E Virginia Street and the train tracks, west of Highway 5. The expectation is for the municipal complex to reinvigorate the area, bringing activities and businesses to an aging industrial zone as a response to the rapid growth of the city. But this comes at the loss of local history.
By June 2021 the city had already begun planning to build the new city hall around the McKinney Coal and Ice Company building, a historical three-story ice house built in 1920 that was being used as an impound lot. However, last week, July 13, the city of McKinney announced that the ice house building was destined to be demolished, stating that “the structure was deemed too damaged to be saved.”
Since then, residents have been seen putting up “Save Our Historic Ice House McKinney, Texas” signs to push back against the city’s decision. After hearing of the city’s plan, life-long resident Nina Dowell Ringley told NBCDFW, “I first cried then got that out of my system and then got angry,” adding, “We have something that no one else has.”
On Facebook, residents have created a page to share the ice house’s history and promote its preservation, as was initially planned. The original plan intended both to unify the different services offered by the city hall, which are currently located at six to eight locations across the city and to function as a gathering place for the community, while at the same time preserving the city’s historic staples.
Although Barry Shelton, an assistant city manager in McKinney, explained to NBCDFW that engineers and experts found extensive damage to the building, turning the preservation efforts amount to $3 million making them economically unsound, some residents insist on the historical importance of the building.
For centuries, ice houses were used to store ice throughout the year through various types of insulation. At a time before the invention of the refrigerator, these structures were fundamental to conserving food and providing cool beverages during the summer months. By the turn of the 20th century, these buildings played a key role in the ice trade industry, a flourishing business that involved large-scale harvesting, transport and sale of natural ice.
For now, the city of McKinney is moving forward with plans for the building to be demolished.